So you've been really happy with your photography in recent months, you've shot loads of stuff, and you've even managed to take some real keepers that even you think are great pictures. If it carries on like this you're going to be the happiest most productive photographer ever, hell you might even buy a new lens, bag or that shiny new camera you always wanted...
It's great when this happens, but often after the great highs come the crashing lows. That feeling that you aren't taking great pictures, what do you even want to take pictures of? You just can't decide, nothings going on, you're just not seeing anything that interests you anymore, it's all so boring!
Don't fear, we all go through it, and to be honest it's necessary to sometimes step back and refresh yourself.
The creative energy we all need to be photographers, no matter your level is hard to maintain, think of a musician who're making their difficult second album, the painter who feels like they wearing boxing gloves at the easel. Creativity ebbs and flows and it's harder to stay at the top of the creative wave than to sink into the abyss of simply going through the motions.
So what do you do? Well here are my top tips to keep you going on your photographic journey.
- Read Books - Nothing inspires me more than seeing a great picture and thinking "I wish I'd taken that"! Looking at other photographers work is a great way to learn as well as be inspired. All photographers, yes even the most celebrated, well published ones started somewhere. Their first picture didn't look like their last, they are indeed just like us, learning, practicing, shooting and so it goes...But I don't just mean read photography books, more read literature, something that will mean you use your imagination. I love to read spy books. John Le Carre, Frederick Forsyth etc. Imagine the pictures that these wordsmiths are painting with words, the colours the smells and emotions you feel when you're reading. Essentially this is what you're trying to do with your pictures. So if a passage in a book describes something you really like, try to recreate what you see in your mind into a photograph. It really works!
- No Camera Day - Don't take your camera out today. Yes I know, we all hear how you should never leave the house without it, but really there's nothing better than giving yourself a break. So what if you see something, reach for your camera and...Doh! It's not there. The feeling you've missed that dynamite shotis a sure fire way to remember what you like to see, what interests you and why you may have fallen into the terrible trap of taking to many photo's for the sake of it of everything and nothing. Which brings me on to point 2.
- Learn to see again - Since you've not got your camera with you, nows the time to open your eyes and start to look. Yes really look. Actually do more than look, be present in your environment. Be part of the scene. It sounds simple but sometimes we all need to reconnect with the places where we shoot. So take away the pressure of taking the picture and instead imagine the picture you'd actually like to take if you could. I promise, spending a day or week looking, smelling, and experiencing everything around you will get that hunger back.
- Watch Films - Who doesn't love a good film night? Who hasn't marvelled at the way the camera sweeps across a landscape or portrayed a moody night time scene in a thriller. Again it's possible to be inspired by these things, sometimes I'll even pause the film and take a quick snap of the screen with my mobile phone to remind of something it made me think about. A colour or particular part of the composition. It's important when watching films or looking at other photographs to not fall into copying what you see, but rather use it as a point of reference for what you want to achieve. Remember it's about being inspired, not recreating something that's been done.
- Try Social Documentary - No matter where we live, we're never far away from what I'd call a news story. It could be a protest march, an area near by in decline which demonstrates social decay or just a comment on the place where you live. For me living in Liverpool in the UK, there's no shortage of social stories to cover or music events and parades. Even in the smallest of towns and villages there are tales to tell in your photography. So get out and find something thats going on, from a chess club who meet once a week to the antifascist march, it's up to you to tell the story of whats happening in the social circles where you live.
- Try a different discipline - You love landscape photography, you're a whizz in street shooting or a master of portraiture. Of course There's no reason to change what you do, but trying a different style of photography and getting out of your comfort zone is a sure way to get you thinking and excited again. As you know, I'm generally a street photographer, but of late I've tried a little portraiture. I've asked friends to pose and I've asked strangers to pose. the latter does take some nerve, but it's the most rewarding thing in the world to as a stranger if you could photograph them. The picture above happened just like this, and after I'd took it, I emailed it over to my new found stranger/friend and they loved it. Not only did it make those guys feel good but it helped me feel good, and when we feel good, we feel inspired. And that my friends is the point!
Print your pictures - For me this has been the single most inspiring thing I've done. Holding your picture in your hand is way worth the cost in printing. It could be a home print and then frame and hung on a wall at home or an actual book made one of the many online printers out there. Whichever it is I guarantee you'll feel that extra buzz in your photography. You don't need to one of your followers on twitter or instagram to tell you your pictures good. Hold it in your hand or print it as a gift for someone. You'll know if it's a good picture when you print it!
This list could've been much longer, but it's a start, and its how I've been working for a little while now. But the real key is don't worry, inspiration is all around us. It's just a matter of finding it however we can, and if it doesn't come straight away don't fear, it'll be back before you know it.
Please feel free to share or leave a comment.
Better still tell me how you remain inspired in your photography, how do you do it?